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How to increase productivity during the Christmas downtime

By Jacqueline Smith | |5 minute read

Keeping your team motivated in the run to the end of the year can be challenging as a feeling of fatigue starts to sweep through the organisation. Everyone is either laser-focused on cleaning up projects and hitting targets or, with festive season decorations already in all the stores, their brains switch into holiday mode way too early. It’s not unusual to see a drop in productivity well before the office closes for the holidays.

This drop in productivity can often be attributed to the natural winding down as the year ends. Teams have been working hard all year, and as the holidays approach, it’s only natural for their focus to shift. However, this doesn’t mean productivity needs to suffer. It’s a matter of finding the right balance between encouraging some festive cheer and keeping everyone on track.

One way to keep productivity high in your revenue generation and frontline teams is to run a group incentive or challenge. This can provide a good injection of short-term motivation and helps to eliminate inconsistency across the team. Most frontline teams love a little competition, and you can use this to ensure everyone is motivated to hit the required numbers.


I suggest setting a target through to mid-December at the latest and making the reward fun. A bit of friendly competition not only boosts staff morale but also fosters a sense of unity. It’s important to remember that incentives and challenges should be attainable and enjoyable. The goal is to encourage productivity, not to add more stress to an already busy time of year.

Another way to ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction is to create a whole team or office challenge. This means the support and admin staff are equally rewarded as the revenue-producing and operational team members who often seem to get all the accolades. It’s important that every member of the team feels valued and recognised, which, in turn, can increase their commitment and productivity.

In any of these challenges, it is best to set a target that hits the sweet spot in terms of achievability. You want it to be a bit of a challenge, but setting it too high can have the opposite effect and be demotivating. The key is to set realistic targets that motivate rather than discourage.

Another challenge for leaders is kickstarting everyone into action early in the new year. This can have challenges as everyone seems to start in low gear with a “holiday hangover”. To add to this, often, you do not have a full team through January, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for everyone at work to perform at half pace.

To combat this, I like to work with our teams to do their 2024 planning in late 2023. Open communication about the upcoming year’s goals and challenges is empowering. Team discussions where everyone contributes to setting objectives help instil a sense of ownership and enthusiasm for moving forward.

It can also have a twofold effect of resetting motivation and expectations, along with ensuring everyone hits the ground running when the holidays are over. Too many businesses run a “kickstart” in February or March; the issue with this is the first quarter of the year is pretty much done and dusted before anyone even strikes a blow.

At Absolute Best, we take a more holistic approach in these sessions, focusing on personal, behavioural, and professional goals. This is always well received by teams as it shows that the business is not just focused on the bottom line but is taking an interest in the “whole” person or individual. Additionally, this allows team members to reset their own goals, which can often create a powerful “why” to drive performance in the year ahead.

Maintaining a positive and supportive work environment is fundamental, and even simple gestures like a thank-you note, an encouraging email, or an end-of-year message can make a significant difference in keeping morale high. Remember, the end of the year is not just about winding down; it’s also an opportunity to set a positive tone for the new year.

Jacqueline Smith is the chief executive of Absolute Best.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.